The ball zoomed toward Petco Park’s center field fence and just maybe it had enough to clear it.
A home run from your favorite San Diego Padre? Not quite, and that’s where the fun begins.
“It’s pretty impressive teeing off from home plate,” Jim Glass said. “You start to wonder what it might be like to hit a curve ball.”
The twist with the Links at Petco Park is golf, not baseball, is the sport du jour. Nine holes are sprinkled around inside the ballpark, with those wielding irons and wedges trying to show their mettle.
“It’s a unique opportunity that every golfer should try,” said Glass, a Cardiff resident.
While Encinitas’ A.J. Preller, the Padres’ general manager, is busy constructing the roster during the offseason there’s also some levity at Petco. In conjuncture with Carlsbad’s Callaway Golf, patrons are asked to go for aces instead of watching one pitch.
Over 10 days through Dec. 1 some 3,500 golfers, paying from $75 to $100, were to tackle the nine-hole, par-27, 1,163-yard course.
Of course every duffer says the same thing when entering the teeing off from home plate.
“This is my chance to hit it out of the stadium,” Callaway’s Tyler Shean said.
The tee boxes, which vary from being on the field, to in the outfield seats, to atop the Western Metal Supply Co. building, are engineered so golfers aren’t bouncing drives of pedestrian traipsing around downtown.
“There’s a strategy with each hole’s length and where it is located,” said Shean, a Callaway marketing specialist. “The goal is we wanted to provide enough club so that the ball can get to the intended spot without people jacking balls into the lobby of the nearby Omni Hotel.”
Callaway brainstormed in marrying its sport with the national pastime five years ago when considering a business relationship with the Padres.
“In true Callaway fashion we said we would love to partner with you guys but we didn’t want to just do a sign at the ballpark,” said Shean, who resides in Carlsbad. “We wanted to do something cool and unique. A few weeks later we had the great idea to bring golf to the ballpark, although we weren’t certain what that would look like.”
The vision came into focus after four months of tinkering. The course would feature holes on the field and tee boxes on every level of Petco.
Which is great, unless you’re Glass. His knees buckled and his stomach did up-downs.
“That happened when we were on top of the Western Metal building,” he said. “I’m not real good with heights.”
Golfers aim at a hole’s designated colored circles off the tee. If the ball lands inside the circle closest to the pin, it’s a birdie. If it is outside of it, it’s par. If it’s way outside — think on the warning track or in the seats — record a double-bogey and move on.
Each player gets two swings at each hole, with a caddy keeping the tally.
With the Links at Petco Park now in its fifth edition, each year brings with it a new twist to keep it fresh. What’s been a staple is everyone’s enjoyment and how they eye Petco when returning for a Padres game.
“You get to see the stadium from a completely different perspective,” Glass said.
One player saw the course well enough to shoot a 9-under par 18, the best card ever. Not even PGA Tour star Xander Schauffele, the former San Diego State star, could match that effort.
“It’s definitely a test for the recreational golfer and the one-handicap golfer,” Glass said. “It’s a challenge to get it into the target.”
The golfers will soon exit and it’ll be back to the Padres doing their business. Here’s to Preller finding his ace after the duffers finish aiming for theirs.